The head of police department in Iraq’s northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk says the governor has imposed a curfew following the closing of polls in a controversial referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region from the central government in Baghdad.
Brigadier Sarhad Qader said the security measure was adopted on Monday night to “protect the civilians and the communities” in the multi-ethnic city, located 230 kilometers (143 miles) north of Baghdad.
Qader says the curfew will be lifted at 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT).
On August 29, 22 of the 24 councilors present in the 41-member Kirkuk council voted in favor of holding the Kurdish independence referendum.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the vote by Kirkuk provincial council as a wrong move, adding that the planned referendum was illegal and worthless.
Iraqi government spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, also lambasted the vote as “illegal and unconstitutional.”
On September 14, the Iraqi parliament voted on the dismissal of 68-year-old Najmiddin Karim as the governor of Kirkuk province.
The provincial council, in return, condemned the decision; with its head Ribwar al-Talabani claiming only the council had the power to remove Karim.
Kurdish independence referendum turnout at 76 percent
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Kurdish-language Rudaw television network, which is affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani, reported that turnout in the Kurdish vote stood at 76 percent at 5:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) – one hour before polling stations closed.
Polling stations opened their doors at 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT), and closed at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT). The final results would be announced within 72 hours.
On Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said the Damascus government doesn’t recognize the Kurdish referendum, denouncing any measure that could break up neighboring Iraq.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters on Monday that the Kurdish independence vote could “lead to developments and happenings that could affect all people of the region and especially Kurdish people.”
Qasemi reiterated that Iran supports the “territorial integrity and democratic process” in Iraq.